Published: 28.03.2019 Updated: 02.06.2022
Northeast Arctic saithe have muscular bodies - and are fast swimmers. They are easily recognized due to their relatively small under jaw and pronounced white lateral line.
They are both pelagic and bottom dwelling fish - and occur at bottom depths ranging from 25 to 400 meters. Particulary as juveniles - saithe often occur in dense concentrations at shallower depths, typically on seamounts, where there is a higher concentration of pelagic prey. Primary food items for young saithe are copepods, krill, and other pelagic crustaceans, while older fish largely feed on fish such as herring, sprat, blue whiting, haddock, and Norway pout. It is an active gregarious species that may undergo extensive feeding and spawning migrations.
Adult saithe follow Norwegian spring-spawning herring far out into the Norwegian Sea, sometimes all the way to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The most important spawning grounds in Norwegian waters are outside the Lofoten area, the banks outside Helgeland, Møre and Romsdal, and Tampen and the Viking Bank in the North Sea. Eggs and larvae are carried northwards by the currents.
The fry settle in the littoral zone along the coasts between Western Norway and the southeastern part of the Barents Sea. It migrates out to the coastal banks at age 2-4 years. Saithe occur only in the North Atlantic, with a small population in the western part between the border of Canada and USA.
In the Northeast Atlantic saithe is currently divided into six stocks primarily in the area west of Ireland, west of Scotland, around the Faroe Islands, Iceland, the North Sea, and along the Norwegian coast north of Stad. Tagging studies have shown that migrations occur between some of these populations. From the southern areas of the Norwegian coast there can be extensive migration of young saithe to the North Sea, while older fish migrate from northern regions to Iceland and the Faroe Islands. There are few examples of saithe immigration to the Norwegian coast.